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Shoes for Kenya

Students from a local elementary school are working together with the Shoeman Water Project to bring cleaner drinking water and shoes to people in rural Africa

by: CENTRAL OREGONIAN -

Ochoco students watched in disbelief Tuesday morning as a guest speaker showed a video of a young African child who had to carry large buckets of drinking water two or three miles each day.
   The child’s name is Jacob, and he not only has to carry the water through unsafe and rough terrain, he has to do so without any shoes. According to Cheryl Clemans, a Bend affiliate for the Shoeman Water Project, an undertaking began in 2008 of providing not only shoes for the people in these poor areas in Africa and South and Central America, but water well drilling rigs, water purification systems, and hand pump repair equipment.
   “All the (water) wells are being drilled in Kenya,” added Clemans.
   She said that the project started as the result of one man’s vision in Kenya, referred to as the Shoeman. In 2008, George Hutchings of Ballwin, Mo. established Shoeman Water Projects to focus specifically on delivering clean water. He spent a decade of travel and humanitarian missions in Kenya, and consequently realized that without clean water, all other aid would not matter. In the beginning of the shoe project, he started collecting donated shoes, and sold them to an exporter who in turn sent them to street vendors Chile, Kenya, and Haiti.
   Students at Ochoco Elementary have collectively decided to contribute to the project. They have set up collection boxes throughout the school, and the only requirement is that they bring in a pair of shoes that don’t have holes and are either new or slightly worn. Although they have some collection boxes already, third grade instructor Pam Bourland explained that they will really be pushing the momentum of the project after Christmas break.
   “Our thought was that they would be more likely to go through their closets and clean things out after Christmas,” said Bourland.
   She recently established a leadership group of students, and wanted to start a community action project for her group. She heard about the Shoeman Water Project on the radio and decided it would be a good fit for not only her students, but the entire student body. There was no money to contend with, no fundraising, just collecting shoes for a worthy project.
   She also has talked to a local church and Les Schwab Tire Center about being collection points for the shoe project.
   The shoes are exported to street vendors in places like Haiti, Kenya and South America. The funds from this process are used for clean water programs in communities around the world. These secondhand shoes are a valuable product for street vendors to sell at affordable prices. The end users are people who do not have shoes and cannot afford to purchase new shoes. The shoes protect the new owner’s feet from foot abrasions, parasites, and mites.
   Clemans said that shoes are an expensive commodity in these remote areas of Africa, and this project is one way that people can get shoes at an affordable price. Many people barter items such as chickens and goats for the shoes.
   Shoes are just one issue that people in this region deal with on a daily basis. Kenya has had a shortage of water for a long period of time.
   “In Kenya, it’s a 60-year- drought that they have had,” noted Clemans.
   She has been to the region where they are drilling water wells and doing the work with the Shoeman Water project.
   She said that many aquifers are drying up, and the well-drilling rig has to drill as deep as 1,000 feet. Not only are they raising money for drilling equipment, they recently burned up some equipment trying to get through the hard granite to find water.
   Since the inception of the program in 2008, Clemans said they have collected more than 2.5 million pairs of shoes, have dropped 200-plus wells, and provided clean water to more than 2,000 people.
   “It’s a really great project,” she added. “And being there and seeing it all firsthand, and how much it’s needed and how appreciative the people are — you go to the schools and they would call us dignitaries. Everyone was just so happy and so excited.”
   For more about the Shoeman Water Project, call Cheryl Clemans at 541-771-5015
   For collections, call 541-447-5211. There is also a large barrel outside of Ochoco for collection of shoes.